Some Thoughts on SandForce's 3rd Generation SSD Controllerby Anand Lal Shimpi on January 12, 2012 9:47 PM EST
I spent a few minutes talking to SandForce in between meetings today and got a general idea of what a third generation SF controller might look like. The SandForce folks are proudly displaying their new LSI business cards at the show, but they are also hard at work on a 3rd generation controller.
The SF-2000 series controllers are already limited on the sequential side by 6Gbps SATA as well as the ONFI 2.x interface. Both need to be addressed to improve sequential performance, which we likely won't see until 2013. In other words, I wouldn't expect to see improvements in highly compressible sequential transfers with the 3rd generation SF controller.
There is tons of room for improvement in small file, random read/write performance. Plan on seeing a significant improvement there from the third generation SF controller. This is mostly a function of adding extra processing power in the controller itself. I'm hearing numbers as high as 2x current random IO performance.
SandForce is also planning on improving write speeds when dealing with incompressible data. Larger internal data structures, a faster processor and some other firmware architecture tweaks can enable better performance here. SandForce tells me that improving performance when dealing with incompressible data is its top priority at this point.
Finally there's talk about looking at other interfaces in addition to SATA. It's possible that we may see a PCIe version of SandForce's 3rd generation controller. This makes a lot of sense, especially as we march towards an eventual SATA Express (PCIe based) standard. Companies with native PCIe based controllers today will have a better chance of influencing the spec and working through the kinks in their own products as the spec is finalized. SandForce also indicated that being able to efficiently aggregate multiple PCIe based controllers would be a very important point to focus on.
As always, SandForce will launch its third generation SSD controller for the enterprise first but we'll probably see client drives show up before that. Enterprise validation takes a lot longer than client, hence the lag in availability despite an earlier introduction.
SandForce isn't officially talking about timeframe for availability, but my guess is we'll know more around the middle of the year.